As a follow up to Dean's excellent post on Whidbey farms, let's look around at the other organizations and relationships that play such a vital role in our local food system, what could be called our Community-Food Web.
Food webs are "the natural interconnections of food chains and a graphical representation of what-eats-what in an ecological community (Wikipedia)." Species are dependent on or support each other, depending on how you view it, and one creature or the creature's output is another's input. We are all related, we grew out of and share Mother Earth. Indigenous cultures celebrate the web.
On Whidbey we have a resilient web of amazing interconnected organizations that provide our locally grown food. Our local farmers are essential, but so are the organizations that surround farmers to educate, distribute, sell, cook, and support our Community-Food web. And it's a mostly volunteer effort, so please consider giving your time and/or donating. We list some of them here to highlight and honor their work (apologies to those we've left out).
Farmers Markets and Stands
Farmers Markets are where farmers meet food lovers in a fun, supportive community gathering place. Lots of produce, fruits, meats, cheeses, and artisanal crafts to browse and shop. And many farmers host their own roadside stands, keep a look out! See also these lists: Goosefoot, Eat Local, Slow Food, Whidbey Island Grown.
A number of Farmers Market food purchasing assistance programs benefit both neighbors in need and our local farmers. Check out these resources:
Educating both present and future farmers, students, and our community as to how/where/why plants grow and animals thrive:
Organic Farm School, Clinton: Nationally recognized program that "trains new farmers to develop and manage small farms focused on ecological, economic, and social regeneration."
South Whidbey School Farm Program: Great program providing hands on gardening classes for students, nutritious snacks, and food for the cafeteria!
Coupeville Farm-to-School: "Providing food and farm based education in the classroom, in the garden, and on the farm and supporting local food procurement for the district’s scratch cooked school lunches."
South Whidbey Tilth, Langley: Hands-on classes on their 11-acre campus. "We cultivate living soil and community action to build environmentally sound and socially equitable agriculture."
Many great organization provide a variety of services to support local farmers and our food web:
Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Greenbank: Doing tremendous work to preserve our forest and farm lands through innovative grants for conservation easements.
Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative, Coupeville: "Supporting a viable agricultural economy, to increase the production and sales of agricultural products on Whidbey Island and to build a resilient, healthy and sustainable community." These wonderful folks run the Food Hub, which "brings together over 40 local producers in one online marketplace" where consumers can order online with multiple pickup locations.
Slow Food Whidbey Island, Greenbank: "Dedicated to educating the palate, connecting the community, and exploring the celebration of food from farm to table."
WSU Extension Food Systems, Island County: "Educational and networking assistance to production agriculturalists and small-acreage landowners involved with food & fiber production, animal husbandry, horticulture, floriculture, and forestry/woodlot management." Plant sales, kids classes, Master Gardener programs, "Women, Farms and Food", and more.
Whidbey Island Growers Association: Monthly potluck and group discussion sponsored by WSU Extension Island County and the Whidbey Island Conservation District.
South Whidbey Tilth Community Gardens, Langley: 20' x 20' plots for rent.
Food in Need
Access to culturally appropriate food should be a basic human right. These wonderful folks are filling the societal gap:
Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden, Langley: Good Cheer does it all: goods-reusing thrift stores, gardening, gleaning, food bank. "Good Cheer is committed to creating a hunger-free community on South Whidbey."
Whidbey Island Nourishes, Langley: "Helps bridge the nutrition gap for South Whidbey young people, some of who rely on the free and reduced school lunch program to meet their nutritional needs."
Spin Cafe, Oak Harbor: "Everyone has needs. For some, it’s a meal, a place to rest out of the weather, to get information about community resources, to connect with others."
North Whidbey Help House, Oak Harbor: Providing emergency/supplemental food, and assistance through the North Whidbey Medical Help program, and health and welfare checkups.
Gifts from the Heart, Coupeville: Volunteer-run food bank serving the Central Whidbey community for 20 years.
Whidbey Island NAS Commissary, Oak Harbor: Serving retired, disabled veterans, and other eligible beneficiaries.
(See also Farmers Markets section above for assistant programs.)
Grocery Stores with Locally-Grown Food
Some of our grocery stores support local farms by contracting with them to sell their produce:
Local, sustainable community-food webs are precisely what we need in these challenging times (e.g. see here). A web is resilient but we cannot take it for granted. We must recognize our local web, give thanks for it, support it, nurture it, join it!